All commercial vehicles that travel on the roads in Gainesville, Georgia and the United States are subject to annual inspections by the Department of Transportation (DOT). These inspections are mandatory for any commercial vehicle that weighs more than 10,001 pounds.

The reason for these inspections is to ensure that all commercial vehicles are safe for the road — both for the drivers of the vehicles as well as other drivers and pedestrians on the road. 

DOT inspections are broken down into six different categories, which we’ll discuss more below. These required inspections are also completely separate from period inspections of commercial vehicles that the carriers must also complete.

Let’s take a closer look at what a DOT inspection is, as well as the different classifications and how you can prepare for them.

What is a DOT Inspection?

A DOT inspection is a standard annual inspection for all commercial motor vehicles. Every year, approximately 4 million inspections are conducted on commercial motor vehicles in North America. They are conducted in individual states, territories, provinces and/or jurisdictions, depending on the origination of the vehicles.

The criteria and inspection procedures are laid out by the CVSA, or the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. Collectively, the inspections are referred to as the North American Standard Inspection Program. 

Some inspections will result in the owner of the commercial vehicle being given a decal that they must place on the vehicle, while others do not.

What are the Six Classifications of Inspections?

The six classifications of commercial vehicle inspections are broken down by what are called Levels. Here is the breakdown of each.

Level I: North American Standard Inspection

This is the most common of all inspections performed by the DOT. They look at documents such as the CDL of the driver, a medical certificate that states the driver passed the required annual physical exam, logbooks that show the service hours and more.

The inspector will look at the vehicle itself for the operation of turn signals, headlamps, wheels, fuel system, steering wheel and more.

These inspections take anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes.

Level II: Walk-Around Driver/Vehicle Inspection

This inspection includes everything that’s in a Level I inspection, except the inspector won’t go under the vehicle to look at certain parts. Because of this, Level II inspections typically take about a half hour. 

Level III: Driver-Only Inspection

The inspector looks at the credentials of the operator of the vehicle in this inspection. This includes their driver’s license, SPC certificate, record of duty status, usage of their seat belt and medical certification. These take only about 15 minutes.

Level IV: Special Inspection

These inspections will look closer at specific items on the vehicle and are conducted one time only. They will be scheduled if a claim has been filed about the vehicle, and the inspection will look to either invalidate or verify the claim. How long this inspection takes depends on what is being analyzed.

Level V: Vehicle-Only Inspection

This inspection is the same as Level I, except that the operator of the vehicle won’t be there. The inspector will look only at the vehicle itself in this analysis, which takes about 45 minutes.

Level VI: Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments

If the vehicle transports radiological cargo, then it might be required to undergo a Level VI inspection. This inspection has to be passed before a driver can leave with this type of shipment. The inspection itself will take about an hour.

Once the inspection is passed, the CMV will have a nuclear symbol attached to it that signifies the test has been passed.

How to Prepare Your Drivers for DOT Inspections?

It’s always a good idea to keep all commercial vehicles in a condition that is ready for an inspection at any time. While these inspections above are conducted only once a year, having the vehicle — and driver — up to standards at all times makes the entire process easier.

This includes regularly inspecting the vehicle on your own, and making sure all drivers have their proper licenses and certifications completed, as well as the proper documentation with them at all times. It’s a good idea if they separate these documents and organize them properly so they’re easy to find. 

How to Protect Personal Information During Roadside Inspections?

If drivers understand what will be required of them during a roadside inspection, they will be better prepared to protect their personal information. If they don’t know what they will and will not be required to show the inspector, then they may end up showing documents or information that they do not wish to share.

This is why preparation is essential for all commercial vehicle companies. Owners of these companies as well as all drivers should know what is expected of them at all times — and what could happen on the road.

How to Minimize Roadside DOT Violations?

The simplest way to minimize roadside DOT violations is to ensure that you are driving both legally and safely. There are some times when a driver may get pulled over and be issued a citation. But, they are less likely to draw attention from law enforcement and, as a result, inspectors if they driver properly and safely.

If you are to receive a ticket, make sure to immediately report it to your company. This will help them support you if you need to fight the ticket or need additional help. 

It’s also essential to keep up to date with all proper certifications and licenses, and to carry the paperwork proof with you. This will ensure you aren’t in violation of any DOT rules.

How to Pass Your DOT Inspections?

There are a few ways you can make sure you always pass your DOT inspections.

First and foremost, keep all your documents with you and organized. If you have everything handy and you know where it is, it will make it less likely that you forget anything, misplace anything or can’t find anything when the inspection comes around. It will also reduce the amount of time the inspection takes.

Second, ensure that you are always conducting the proper maintenance on the vehicle. You should be conducting thorough and regular checks on the vehicle to ensure all parts and pieces are working properly. You never want an inspector to find an issue that you were unaware of.

Finally, always have a good attitude when the inspection is going on. While the inspections may be a hassle and nuisance for you, you can contribute to it going poorly or going well based on your attitude. Be friendly, kind and helpful to the inspector, and they are likely to not give you any extra problems.